Maine Department of Environmental Protection reminds homeowners to check their home heating oil tanks to prevent spills

November 6, 2013

CONTACT:
Jessamine Logan, Director of Communications (207) 287-5842 or jessamine.logan@maine.gov

-Most home heating oil spills – the most common spill DEP responds to – are preventable

AUGUSTA- For many Maine homeowners the arrival of chilly temperatures means filling their home heating oil tanks. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is reminding homeowners to reduce the likelihood of a home heating oil tank spill by taking measures to protect the environment and their fuel investment.

There are three leading causes of costly and inconvenient home heating fuel spills: internal corrosion; physical tank damage, usually from snow and ice; and overfills. And all are preventable.

“Internal corrosion – a result of water and sludge build-up – is the leading cause of releases of residential oil,” says David McCaskill, a senior environmental engineer in the department’s Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management. “Because corrosion destroys a tank from the inside out, the deterioration isn’t visible to homeowners until a catastrophic tank failure occurs.”

Many Maine oil dealers have licensed technicians on their staff who can perform ultrasonic thickness tests on tanks to determine if they are deteriorating and if so, recommend a replacement, such as a double-walled or fiberglass tank, before the tank fails. Other leading causes of residential home heating oil spills are external tank damage, usually from falling ice and snow snapping off filters and leading to leaks, and overfills. Both can be prevented by a licensed oil technician installing a filter protector and a vent whistle, which sounds until a tank is full.

Roughly 400,000 of Maine’s households – the highest share in the nation – rely on fuel oil for home heating. On average, the department responds to one home heating oil spill a day. Home heating oil spills can threaten groundwater, lead to poor indoor air quality, contaminate drinking water, lower property values and harm the environment.

“For so many of us, the only time we give our oil tanks any real thought is when we’re paying to fill them,” McCaskill said. “But by taking care of your tank, you’re protecting our environment, your family’s health and your checkbook.”

Releases from home heating oil tanks can often be costly, with annual clean-up costs adding up to as much $2 million from the state’s Groundwater Oil Clean-Up Fund.

The hundreds of residential fuel releases are part of the nearly 3,000 oil and hazardous materials spills the department’s Division of Response Services are called to each year. If you spill any fuel, witness a spill or think there is a threat of one, please report it immediately to the Maine DEP’s 24-hour oil spill emergency spill response hotline at 1-800-482-0777.

For more information from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection about keeping your home heating oil tank safe, visit www.maine.gov/dep/homeowner/homeheatingoil/index.html.
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